Timbers release 2004 roster

PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Timbers have announced their 2004 roster in anticipation of the season opener this Saturday, May 1 vs. the Seattle Sounders at PGE Park.

With 11 retuning players from 2003, the Timbers have retained more players than any other year as a franchise. Eight newcomers, including five rookies, join last season’s holdovers from a team that went 15-11-2 on the year.

NEW SIGNINGS: Portland came to terms with five more players during the last week of training camp … the Timbers signed M Memo Arzate, 22, who left UC-Santa Barbara as the all-time Big West Conference assist leader, with 36. The Southern California native was drafted in the third round (22nd overall) of the 2004 MLS SuperDraft by Los Angeles … M Erik Cronkrite, a 22-year-old Corvallis, Ore., native, played his college soccer at the University of Portland, where he racked up 11 goals and 11 assists over three years. He was a two-time All-West Coast Conference selection … D David Henning joins the Timbers as a 19-year-old prospect who, at age 16, played in the A-League for the Milwaukee Rampage. Henning is a Milwaukee native who spent 2003 with the Des Moines Menace of the PDL … D Edwin Miranda, 23, was drafted by the Dallas Burn in this year’s MLS SuperDraft. He played four years at Cal State-Northridge, earning Big West Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2003 … D/M Shawn Saunders, a four-year veteran in the league, joins his brother Josh on the Timbers for 2004. Saunders played previously for the Orange County Zodiac, Orange County Waves and the Colorado Foxes.

WELCOME BACK: The Timbers return 11 players from last year’s club, three more than last season’s eight returnees … three of those players -- M Scott Benedetti, D Gavin Wilkinson and M Brian Winters -- have been with the Timbers for each of the team’s four seasons, while three more have two years under their belt at PGE Park, including Jake Sagare (2002-03), McKinley Tennyson (2002-03) and Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar (2002-03) … the remaining five with previous Timbers experience include Byron Alvarez (2003), Aaron Heinzen (2003), Lee Morrison (2003), Dan Antoniuk (2003) and Josh Saunders (2003).

NEW IN TOWN: In addition to this week’s signings, new faces in the crowd for 2004 include M Alex Bengard, GK Bayard Elfvin and F Alan Gordon. … Gordon and Elfvin are entering their first seasons of professional soccer, while Bengard has enjoyed stints with the Galaxy of MLS and last season with the Seattle Sounders.

HOMEGROWN: The Timbers feature seven players who were either born, raised or attended college in the Pacific Northwest … included are: Scott Benedetti (Portland), Josh Saunders (Grants Pass), Brian Winters (Tacoma), Jake Sagare (Yakima), Erik Cronkrite (Corvallis), Alan Gordon (Oregon State) and Aaron Heinzen (Yakima).

GENERATION GAP: The youngest player on the team this season is 20-year-old David Henning (4/22/84), while the oldest remains 37-year-old Scott Benedetti (11/13/66), who was playing collegiate soccer at UP while Henning was just a one-year-old.

ALL IN THE FAMILY: With the addition of Shawn Saunders to the roster, the Timbers have two brothers on the squad for the first time in franchise history. Shawn’s younger brother, Josh Saunders, spent most of last season in goal for the Timbers and returns for a second season.

IMPORTS: Four players on the Timbers are foreign-born, including Byron Alvarez (Mexico), Gavin Wilkinson (New Zealand), Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar (Mexico) and Edwin Miranda (El Salvador).

MLS FLAVOR: The 2004 Timbers feature six players who have spent time with MLS clubs during their career. Those with MLS experience are: McKinley Tennyson (Los Angeles), Lee Morrison (Dallas), Alex Bengard (Los Angeles), Josh Saunders (San Jose), Scott Benedetti (Colorado) and Byron Alvarez (New York/New Jersey).

INTERNATIONAL APPEAL: Portland’s roster sports six players who have played for overseas clubs, including Scott Benedetti (Mexico, England), Byron Alvarez (Mexico), Jake Sagare (England), Shawn Saunders (Germany), McKinley Tennyson (Sweden) and Gavin Wilkinson (Portugal, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Ireland).